YORK CITY SOUTH

Our Branch / Photos City History TV: City In Action City Interviews
Quiz Book / frontiers DRUNK In York Private Vice Presidents Club
City Books / Fanzines Bootham Crescent Southern Connections RENEW Membership
YCS YCS

York City's Worst Ever XI

Plenty of candidates to pick from, read on ...

Having spent the last few days (in late 2013) trying to guess Malcolm Huntingdon’s all time best City XI, I moved onto the next step, selecting my all time Worst City XI. Well actually, since the early 1970s when I started watching City. Despite binning almost half of our history, I was left with more than enough choice.

Ground rules included:

  • played at least 25 games for City. This rule means that an awful lot of the dross we've seen over the past few years doesn't even qualify for selection.
  • what they did for City (and not elsewhere in their career)
  • when in doubt, excluding home grown players, although, given the amount of donkeys we signed, that rule didn’t get tested
  • excluded are current City players on the expectation (read hope) that they will get better. It was the current player rule that was sorely tested on the way out of the ground after our 2-0 defeat at Dagenham in September 2014 when 2 separate people both told me to put our entire team that day en masse into the Worst XI. Indeed, its been tested again more than once since that day.

Conversely, a lot of the dross from yesteryear might be welcomed into today's side with open arms, but at the time, they were big let downs after some glory years.

I came up with an original long short list of 62 names. Latterly, other peoples' recommendations have seen that number increase to 3 figures.

Goalkeeper was quite easy, in the end it narrowed down to Ron Hillyard or Tom Evans. Hillyard got my vote, if only as an impressionable youngster, some of his howlers shattered my optimism, by the time Tom Evans came along, it was long gone. Evans seems to cause most discussion. His City City career stats place him high up the rankings of all City keepers, but some of his form, particularly in the 2007 Conference play off at Morecambe and the following season are well remembered by others, including RG who recalls, “I trust Tom Evans ranks as worst, worst, worst, worst, worst, keeper ever to have the honour to play for City. Every time I pass through Lancaster City I leave flowers at the bus stop, where he was thrown off the team bus, and he died there after being too slow to catch a bus. His ashes flew away in the breeze, never mind, not missed. His fumble at the near post during the Morecambe play-off has to rank tops, plus his all over performance that day, one calamity after another. Never to be forgotten or forgiven. If he comes back to City as goalkeeping coach, Northern Premier here we come!”. Whatever, our failure to get out of the Conference in 2007 left us facing another 5 years of purgatory. To show its a game of opinions, TS song the praises of Evans, voting him a his player of the season in 2007. I have to say Hillyard left his City form way behind him when leaving City and went onto have a stellar lower league career. An honorary mention for Paul Crichton, if he'd managed to reach 25 games, he would have been in the team, City fans turning against him after 4 games in 2004 and he turning against City fans. Its little surprise to see Blackpool's 2014/5 league position given he is their goalkeeping coach. Since the original article, some people have suggested Chris Porter, but as he made me a half time cuppa when he was sub on the day my son was mascot, I can't include him. Others suggested Scott Flinders, but as he played under McNamara and in front of an abysmal back 4 I have excluded him on compassionate grounds (arriving at City as the record holder for clean sheets at Hartlepool suggests some talent) and Mark "Oven gloves" Ovendale.

Centre back options were varied and numerous. It was to be the only position where having selected the team, I revisited my selection and made a change. Andy Clements was dropped. Clements, of powder puff physique, naff 70s curly perm and top class upbringing (Bolton at least), was ill suited to the hustle and bustle of Division 4 football, his graceful play deserving better and memories of his goal in an FA Cup replay at Blyth saw him dropped. However, his City colleague, Steve Faulkner was not so lucky. His frizzy corkscrew perm meant he stood out on the pitch and all his mistakes were magnified. Alongside him is Gary Hobson, apparently signed by Terry Dolan out of sympathy, he couldn’t play and couldn’t run, but still managed 3 seasons with us before we dropped out of The League. Chris Clarke, like Crichton, a Chris Brass signing, fared slightly better than Crichton, but with the likes of Alan O'Hare (no starts in 2009/10) and Greg Young whose spell as an emergency keeper was easily his stand out moment in 5 City centre back appearances, typified the depths we plunged to during our non league years. Between them, Clarke, O'Hare and Young failed to muster enough starts to qualify for the Worst XI.

For full back, I was spoilt for choice, especially left back.

I resisted the temptation to go for the Roy Kay / Jimmy Walsh partnership that we put our faith in as we started to recover from the McGuinness morass.

At right back is Peter Scott. Signed by Wilf McGuinness as he tried to improve our Division 2 squad, he earned 7 caps for Northern Ireland whilst with City, he didn't look like a right back, some said he wasn’t even a footballer. A couple of other McGuinness signings, both arrived from Old Trafford with much fanfare are also worthy of consideration. Steve James, a cultured but injury prone centre half and Tony Young, a defensive utility player. It says all for their time at York as their next clubs were Kidderminster and Runcorn respectively.

Derwin Martina deserves a mention despite never playing a first team game for City. Another of Gary Mills' exotic signings (think Ben Everson and Jameel Ible), the Dutch based Curacao Under 20 international was signed in March 2017 and played in City's colours just once, a reserve game against Hartlepool and was sacked / released (depending on which report you read and believe) immediately after the game. At fault for Hartlepool’s winning goal and by his own admission, he found the going tough, saying, “It was really hard for me. In Holland, we always play 4-3-3 and I am a right back, but we played 5-2-3 and it was a new position for me, so I had to do new things with and without the ball”. It is not known whether kicking and heading the ball are included in the new things he spoke about.

I could have picked a whole team of left backs, the likes of Derrick Downing, Jim Branagan, Paul Johnson and Neville Stamp merited serious consideration. There's been a lot of recent support for Shaun Smith, yet another Chris Brass signing, but again he didn't make the requisite 25 appearances and being generous I'll put his extreme lack of pace down to the fact the he was well into the veteran stage when he joined City. With 19 appearances during the 2004/5 season, his nadir came during the 5-1 defeat at Scarborough when he was sent off for time wasting with City 3-0 down. I'd forgotten all about Neville Stamp.

Unless you’re name is Paul Madeley, the tag "utility player" tends to be mean you’re rubbish in any number of positions.

Step forward Paddy Atkinson, York’s own utility player from the 1990s. Recommended to City by Kevin Keegan and signed by Alan Little he disgraced the shirt, actually most shirts, for 3 years. Never able to pin down one position, he was tried in several positions all to no positive effect. Wherever he played, he was equally bad. Maybe he just had a bad 3 years with City as he continued to play professional soccer until his mid thirties before becoming a leading light in non league football in the north east. Today he counts Wayne Rooney and Guy Mowbray amongst his twitter followers.

Playing a 4-4-2 formation, I initially struggled to find candidates for the wide right position.

However, the shirt went to Mark Convery, a free transfer signing from Darlington (never a promising start, unless your name is David McGurk) in June 2005. He spent 2 seasons with us and didn’t do much despite being a near ever present in his first season which earned him a second year. Convery kept Kevin Donovan out of our Conference side, so he merits inclusion as does Adriano Moke, maybe not our worst ever player but sometimes disappointment all the same during his first spell when he often played out wide and showed glimpses of something much better during a frustrating spell with City. Similar could be said of his second spell, but he won plaudits, often in a deep lying midfield role.

Again, no such problem on the left of middle, as with left back, I was inundated with candidates. It came down to a straight fight between Gordon Connelly and Simon Russell. Incredibly we (Alan Little) paid £70,000 to Airdrie for Connelly who flattered to deceive. His only redeeming feature was that we managed to recoup £50,000 when we sold him to Southend in 1999, guess which sucker was their manager? Step forward Alan Little. In 2012, if you believe Wikipedia, Connelly was living in Moscow "trying to resurrect his amateur career with the Storming Cloggs expat football team playing as a forward alongside equally famous fellow British strikers Ian Crompton and Juan Lopez". How the mighty have fallen. Latterly, Wes York might deserve a mention, he flattered to deceive on too many occasions.

The centre of midfield is filled with 2 doyens of former years, on reflection, possibly too good for a worst ever side.. Filling the defensive midfield slot is hard man Paul Atkin. He probably wins the award for the worst ever visiting player to play in a 3-0 win for the opposition at Old Trafford. He is accompanied in central midfield by John Woodward, the underrated (for a reason), forgotten (for another reason) midfield dynamo of the side that took us into Division 2, the second tier in 1974. His choice might cause some consternation as he made 191 appearances over 6 years, including our 2 years in the second tier. On reflection, he was probably the weakest link in our 1974 promotion side and in the days before in depth analysis of the deep lying midfield role (or even its existence), what good work he did probably went unnoticed by me and everyone else. Yes, he was versatile, but see Paddy Atkinson above. The facts that Woodward retired, aged 28, when no one wanted him and Atkin moved onto Scarborough probably sums up their latter City days despite the pair of them making a combined 370 appearances for City over a total of 11 seasons. Mark Atkins, a Premier League winner with Blackburn would also merit consideration if he'd played more games for City at the end of his career. Other candidates might include Lewis Montrose, Stephen Brackstone, Mark Greaves and Billy McGhie.

A good friend of mine, BP, suggests Laurie Calloway should be in midfield. He recalls, “Costing a near club record fee in 1971, he scored a wonder goal against City in April 1971, I must have told you the story and City fans will remember it. But I was one of the few hundred (City fans) that saw his goal for Southport at Haig Avenue (2-2 draw). It's certainly the goal that stands out from any other I have seen watching football live. If it was on film it would still be shown on TV to this day. A volley from a few yards inside his own half into the top of the net. It had wind assistance but you wouldn't have known that if it had been on film. The ball just had the wind behind it. It didn't move all over the place. Balls were heavier in those days”. Calloway moved to City that summer, he was often given the ball on the edge of the box for shots that rarely troubled the keeper although he scored a tap in when we won at Middlesbrough in a League Cup replay in 1971. After an unsuccessful 15 months he left City for Shrewsbury and afterwards enjoyed a long career, as player and later as a coach, in North America. I'm inclined to rate Calloway's wonder goal lower than BP does, if only because we had Ron Hillyard (see above) in goal. The ability to score even a tap in is enough to not make the frame, but he does open up a whole new category. Players who excelled against City only to flop when they joined us. Jimmy Hinch, Mike Pickering and John McReady, your call up awaits.

Incidentally, I resisted the temptation to stuff the team full of north east rejects that seemed to be magnetically drawn to Bootham Crescent from the 1970s onwards. The likes of Richie "Worse Than A Taylor’s Dummy" Taylor, to the bloke behind me on the terraces and Peter Stronach who was supposed to step up from Sunderland Reserves and captaining England Under 18s to lead us out of the wilderness of the McGuinness years, particularly spring to mind.

Others like Peter Creamer, Kevin Dixon, naughty boy David Rush, Malcolm Smith and Mark Tinkler would easily join them. Put Mark Prudhoe in goal and you’ve got the makings of a team that could even lose to City’s all time worst XI. Tinkler had class, but never did it consistently ("Tinkler was a Rolls Royce midfielder in a team which most of us underrated. We’d got blasé about being in League One ... imagine that" - JR) whilst Dixon (8 goals in 38 games, another in the long line of strikers who rarely scored. "I remember his bicycle kick goal versus Aldershot. Wholehearted and talented" - SB) was another player who used City as a stepping stone on the way out of league football.

Upfront, you can pick from:

  • David Loggie, a colleague of Stronach and cost £20,000 (big money and a club record signing in those days) from Burnley. He was supposed to provide the goals that Stronach’s cultured midfield play would surely warrant. In 2 seasons he hit the net just 11 times. It seemed his post City career would amount to nothing, never to be heard of again. Half right, he was never heard of again in England, but played throughout the 1980s and into the early 1990s in Holland and Belgium, scoring 115 goals in 276 appearances, playing for some of the biggest names in Sparta Rotterdam, AZ Alkamer and Lierse. Incidentally, during his City career, he was known to use Barratt Homes' helicopter to travel from his Burnley home to York for training
  • His partner in crime? George Hope. Very quickly, and despite scoring the winner on his debut, any hope he offered quickly evaporated. Yet another north east reject, signed from Charlton, he scored 8 goals in 42 games for City before fading into even more obscurity. Maybe I shouldn't be so dismissive of the scoring records of Loggie and Hope (at least they scored) when you consider some later candidates
  • Gary Mills' 2012 signing Liam Henderson, another Geordie would deserve consideration if he'd made the requisite 25 appearances, the warning bells rang loud on his arrival, 56 first team appearances and just 3 goals as the Watford youngster struggled to find the net during 5 loans spells with the likes of Hartlepool and Wealdstone
  • Yet another Geordie, David Rush spectacularly fails to make the squad, despite an £85,000 loss on him and no goals in just 3 appearances
  • Also in the squad is Michael Gash, we paid £50,000 for him, gave him a 3 year contract and then spent 3 years trying to teach him how to score (and lose weight), but again, someone who played for many years after his City career at a level comparable to or above City
  • Barry Conlon and Colin Alcide merit mentions, 2 big money striker signings in the post Cresswell / Neil Thompson, neither showed any real goalscoring prowess in their City days, a trait they showed at nearly every club they played for
  • Andy Clements' teammate, Terry Eccles had a similar corkscrew perm and could be a candidate as a striker, he was as effective as his nickname of "Jennifer" might suggest
  • Bob Colville
  • I can't let the forwards go without a mention for Rogerio Carvalho, our first (and only to date Brazilian). The tall target man made 5 sub appearances in the 2002/3 season, without hitting the net, then fared even worse at Harrogate when on loan before being released into oblivion in January 2003. Of all the Brazilians in all the world, how come Terry Dolan (although I strongly suspect he was John Batchelor's pick) signed possibly the worst one ever? Argentinean teammate Nicolas Mazzina made just 3 appearances before disappearing (some say fleeing the country due to an unpaid council tax bill.

With that lot on the pitch, I fear there is no point in naming any subs. OK, twist my arm and I'll put Mark Sertori onto the bench. Whilst it took City 18 months to realise that he was no good, his next club Shrewsbury got rid of him within one week. Amazingly, he made the England bench in 2010 as a physio sitting alongside Sven at the World Cup finals. Somehow, I left him off the original long list. So, step forward City's worst ever XI.

FIRST WORST XI: Ron Hillyard; Peter Scott, Steve Faulkner, Gary Hobson, Paddy Atkinson; Mark Convery, Paul Atkin, John Woodward, Gordon Connelly; David Loggie, George Hope; Sub: Mark Sertori

RESERVE WORST XI: Tom Evans; Roy Kay, Mark Basham, Andy Clements, Derrick Downing; Kevin Donovan, Mark Tinkler, Peter Stronach, Richie Taylor; Kevin Dixon, Michael Gash; Sub: Simon Russell

With a shadow squad, largely drawn from the north east from the north east, it means that Paul Atkin born in Nottingham and Michael Gash born in Germany are the most southerly of our team by birth. Maybe that tells us something about where we should be looking for signings.

It only leaves time to name a manager for this all star team. Surprisingly, I’d go for one that doesn’t manage to get any of his signings into City’s All Time Worst XI. Booby Saxton.

You'll note from above, several names came from the Chris Brass era, I'm saying nothing. However, many people have suggested a host of names signed by Booby Saxton, including Dave Buchanan, Tony Clegg, Phil Wilson, Phil Kitching, Derek Fazackerley & Scott Endersby. I'd put them all out of my mind for the past 25 years, but who am I to disagree with their consideration for the squad?

A word of warning, you'll see a lot of recent players in the teams, that's a sign of the standard of Conference football and absolutely nothing at all to do with memory.

FOOTNOTE (1):

In April 1998, Robert Havercroft was asked by "Four Four Two" magazine to nominate his all time worst City player. He nominated Wayne Osborne who made 8 appearances for City between 1995 and 1997. At other clubs, the worst ever players included 3 former City men, Dale Banton (Walsall), Kevin Dixon (Scunthorpe) and Ian Blackstone (Scarborough).

FOOTNOTE (2) - 2012-6:

With 4 seasons back in The Football League (including 3 and a half years of struggle), using the same rules, I expected to easily come up with a Worst XI for that era.

Whilst inundated with attacking players, the likes of Jamie Reed, Ryan Bowman, Emile Sinclair, Jake Hyde (once described as "when fit (rare) couldn't hit a cow's arse with a banjo", but one of only a very small handful of players where City have had to pay a subsequent transfer clause due to their "good" performances for City), Lindon Meikle, Anthony Straker and Ryan Jarvis, it was a struggle to find other outfield players.

Luke Summerfield and Lewis Montrose would be midfield candidates whilst Shaun Rooney, Marvin McCoy and Femi Ilesanmi could fill the full back places. There are no realistic "worst" contenders for centre back (Parslow, Lowe, McCombe, Winfield and Zubar were our mainstays). Scott Flinders might be the only candidate for goal.

The likes of Jason Mooney (in 2014/5, a rare example of a keeping being subbed for form rather than injury reasons), Danny Blanchett, Craig Clay, Eddie Nolan, Oli Johnson and David McDaid are just a few of the others who weren’t even good enough to play enough games to qualify for the Worst XI.

Email YOUR NOMINATION for additions (and reasons why) to our worst ever City team.